Legendary cartoonist creating statue of Naperville founder
June 11, 2013 — Source: Trib Local — Author: Melissa Jenco
When the Naperville Heritage Society wanted to commission a sculpture of the city's founder, there was little mystery as to who would be asked to design it.
Dick Locher, a longtime Naperville resident and legendary cartoonist known for both his Dick Tracy strips and his political cartoons, is helping create the statue of Capt. Joseph Naper that will be placed on the founder's homestead this summer.
Bryan Ogg, curator of research for the Heritage Society's Naper Settlement museum, called Locher's involvement in the project a "natural union." Locher, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has spent four decades living in Naperville and working for the Chicago Tribune. He just recently retired from political cartooning.
But the 84-year-old's passion for art has not waned, and he said he was happy to take on the project to commemorate Naper, who founded the city in 1831.
"It's so much fun," Locher said of his craft. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I never went to work a day in my life."
Locher visited Naper's homestead site at Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street and researched the 1830s before making sketches of the statue. He had little to go on when creating Naper's likeness, but said he was determined to make it a piece that would stand the test of time.
"The expression on the face and the flair of the clothes is everything," he said. " … This has a shelf life of 400 years and I want it right."
The sketches eventually took shape with piping, followed by Styrofoam, then clay, which Locher molded into Naper's head. Jeff Adams, owner of inBronze in northwest Illinois, is now bringing the full sculpture to life.
Locher said the body he designed will have one heel lifted off the ground, giving it movement.
"The worst thing you can do to a statue like that is to plant two feet on the ground," he said. "It's too static."
The early settler also will be holding a land plan for Naperville in his hand.
"What you're going to see in the statue is a very determined, youthful, energetic, powerful, inspiring figure of Joseph Naper," Ogg said.
The statue will be placed on what was once Naper's homestead at Jefferson and Mill, just blocks from where Locher's Dick Tracy sculpture guards the Riverwalk. The city purchased the homestead site during its 175th anniversary in 2006 and has turned into a passive park. The piece, funded by grants, will be dedicated Aug. 23, the 151st anniversary of Naper's death, and will become part of the Century Walk public art collection.